MANY KINDS OF TEARS

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Tears are often treated in our culture as something negative.  People often apologize for their tears.  Sometimes people hide their tears, or are embarrassed by them.  And sometimes people are afraid of them, thinking, for example, that if they cry, they might be becoming depressed.  Others, perhaps more so in males and certain cultures, tend to judge tears as a sign of weakness.

Paradoxically, when you think about it, there is nothing strong about being too afraid to feel or show your pain.  It actually takes courage and strength to feel emotional pain, or other intense emotions.  Feeling a range of human emotions is one way of feeling alive.

Tears of despair can be part of depression, or can be a passing experience.  Tears of sadness, grieving the loss of someone or something, are very different than despair.  They are a healthy experience, with no associated false belief.  They are a normal reaction to loss, and loss is a normal part of life for everyone.  This “clean” sadness, and compassion for one’s self or for another, mean that you care a lot.  These are healthy, often healing and beautiful tears.

Another common type of lovely tears are tears of relief.  Relief is a wonderful experience of letting go of fear, worry, and tension.  Relief is a gift to be enjoyed when it comes along.

Tears of joy are also wonderful.  Joy is one of the great experiences of life.

People can be touched or moved to tears by love, whether they’re feeling intense love, or feeling loved.  Is there anything greater than that?  Is there anything wrong with that?

People can also heave tears with hurt, fear, or with anger.

So whether you’re experiencing tears or witnessing them, don’t assume you understand them.  Sometimes our emotional reaction appears before we understand what we are feeling.  So take your time, and be curious, and the understanding will come to you on its own.  Don’t try to figure it out with your thinking, as you might come up with a wrong assumption.

Obviously, there is nothing weak about being human and experiencing the range of human emotions.  Self acceptance with all our emotions is so important and healthy.

It would be a good thing if our culture were more sensitized to tears as part of healthy living.

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WHEN LOVE GOES INTO HIDING

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Sometimes the sun is shining, and you can experience its brightness and warmth.  Other times, it is stormy and the clouds are thick and low, with rain or snow falling.  Sometimes, the cloudy periods are prolonged.  When the sky is cloudy, there is no brightness or warmth from the sun.  But it is still there, behind the clouds.

In relationships where two people love each other, there can be anger sometimes.  At times, there is a lot of anger, and sometimes it can be prolonged.  At such times, we can question whether there is love, or believe that there isn’t, because we’re not feeling it. But just as surely as the sun is still there on a cloudy day though we do not feel its brightness or warmth, the love, or caring, is also still there at times of conflict, even though we do not feel it.

For example, when a parent is angry at a child, the child is not at that moment experiencing the warmth, affection, or nurturing of love from the parent.  However, the parent never stops loving the child.

Even when there has been prolonged anger, often love can be experienced with a change in the conditions.  For example,  the object of our anger becoming ill can bring out feelings that we had forgotten were there.  Likewise, receiving a heartfelt apology and feeling forgiveness can definitely change things for the better.

Anger is a normal part of loving relationships.  It occurs because we are all human and have issues and triggers, and there are always dynamics between people’s issues.

When one truly don’t care, one tends to feel indifference rather than anger. When there is a lot of anger between a couple in a session, I will sometimes comment on how much they evidently care.

So think of the sun on a cloudy day, and remember that the anger and conflict  is because of issues, not a lack of love.  The love, just like the sun, is still there, though hidden.

DON’T BE DISTRACTED:BE HERE NOW

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Anywhere, any time, just look around you and see what your eyes are drawn to.  Now simply notice what your eyes are seeing, without thinking about anything.  Next, notice what you are feeling in your body.  You will notice relaxation.

This is because the seeing happens in the here and now, in the present moment.  When you focus on simply seeing what you see, it brings you into the here and now, where there is no threat.  The tension in our bodies is often from thoughts about the past, or the future, which can be experienced as posing a threat.

Repeating this very quick and simple practice, which is called orienting, is very good for you.  It allows your body to be relaxed and your mind to be quiet.  This is a pleasant and useful state that is desirable to live in, to the greatest extent possible.  When we are here, we are grounded, and can perceive things more clearly.  Here, we can gain insights and understanding.  Here, creative ideas and solutions can come to us.  Here, we have access to the best parts of ourselves: our love, compassion, and wisdom.   Also, the present moment is the only one that actually exists.  The past and future are memories or anticipation, fabrications of the mind.  So when we are in the here and now, we are more fully alive.  You will notice a freshness, a sense of discovery and wonder there.

You can orient yourself to the present moment by using sight. Or, you can focus on other senses.  For example, you can orient to something that you hear, taste, smell, or feel.  All our sensing happens in the wonderful here and now.

Orienting is a very simple activity that is pleasant and very good for you.  I invite you to make a regular habit of it.  Enjoy!

THE FIGHT

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Do you relate to this familiar scenario?

You get into a spat with your partner, or it could be a family member, friend, or other.

The other person becomes angry and either communicates angrily, withdraws, or both.

You are angry, and maybe hurt.  There is distance between the two of you, and you feel that you are owed an apology.  You are focused on the other person’s angry behavior, words and withdrawal. How could they be so difficult? And you didn’t deserve any of this. Right?

As long as both you and the other person stay in this place, there continues to be distance between you.  Sometimes through no bad intention this painful distance can go on for hours. Or days. Or even can go on so long that you both forget why you a had a fight in the first place. Wow.

How can caring people climb out of this cold, miserable place?

What is needed is for you to step back and look at the situation more objectively rather than just from your own point of view. Look at the whole situation from the perspective of an impartial outside observer.  Try to imagine what the other person’s experience might have been like.  You need to be able to appreciate that both you and the other person are likely feeling very similarly.  The fact that you too have been angry and you also have something to apologize for can come as a revelation, and may be hard to accept initially.

Everyone has their own experience, and each person can legitimately see how they have been egregiously wronged. But why does each of us struggle to see the other’s painful experience? How can something so obvious remain so hidden from us?

The ego can be very good at focusing on the other person’s bad behavior, feeling wronged, and feeling self-righteous anger. That self-righteous smugness can feel pretty good.

And it gets worse.  Even when you start to see that it might be a good idea to apologize for anything on your part and take away the distance between the two of you, the ego can fight the idea.  It can make you feel that that would be a mistake, and that you would be giving in and losing something.  It can make you feel that you’re betraying yourself.

But the self-righteous smugness and the distance may not sit well with another part of you.  In actuality, in bridging a gap between yourself and someone you care about, you are actually being mature and self-aware.  The shift to being more objective, being able to see things more impartially and compassionately, gives you a more accurate perspective.  What you will likely achieve by apologizing for your part is feeling better about yourself for being more mature and coming from a bigger part of yourself, restoring the peace and harmony between you, and perhaps even prompting an apology from the other person.

So: practice mistrusting your ego, that part of you which tends to be one-sided, feel hard done by, and prone to self-righteous anger.  Practice shifting into an objective observer, calmly looking at the whole situation from the outside in order to gain the objectivity that you need to handle the situation with maturity.  You will be left feeling better about yourself, as well has having more harmony in your life.

THE MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP

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The most important relationship you have or will ever have is with yourself.

This is because a) your relationship with yourself is central to how you experience life,

b) it affects how you live your life, and

c)  it’s the only relationship you have control over.

Your relationship with yourself is central to how you experience life.  Broadly speaking, you can only experience feeling loved by another to the extent that you love yourself.  If you feel largely unloveable, you can be surrounded by enormous amounts of love, but will be unable to trust it and feel it.  Likewise, if you have trouble seeing and appreciating the positive in yourself, heartfelt compliments coming your way won’t be able to get through to you as you won’t be able to receive them.  You may tell yourself that the person giving the compliment doesn’t know you well enough, that you don’t deserve it, or you might minimize it and take it for granted.  Others might place their trust in you, but if you don’t trust yourself, you will continue to doubt and question yourself.   If you tend to believe, even at an unconscious level, that you are bad and have been chosen to suffer or be punished, you may tend to expect the negative in your life and you may tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive. You may tend to feel self-pity and be angry at the unfairness of life.  You may be good at judging and punishing yourself.

How you see yourself affects how you live your life. Not valuing yourself or feeling worthy can result in a host of serious effects, including not taking good care of yourself physically and emotionally. It can lead to not exercising, abusing your body, having poor boundaries, easily giving up on yourself, being reckless, not having goals, being apathetic, and so on.  If you don’t feel that you are worthy of good treatment, you may end up having difficulty engaging fully with those who treat you well, and instead find yourself involved with people who don’t treat you well.   Of course, this is often at an unconscious level.  Asking for respect is less effective if you’re not treating yourself with respect.

Your relationship with yourself is the only one you really have control over. Ultimately, we do not have control over anyone else.   Regardless of how wonderful anyone is or how much he or she loves you, another person is always going to have the capacity to let you down, by virtue of being human, and because of difficult to control circumstances.  It is actually very helpful to be aware of this, in order to have realistic expectations.  But if you have healthy self love, you are more likely to not take such disappointments personally, and can continue to feel loved without as much or perhaps without any upset.  For example, if someone forgets your birthday, you might understand that it is because of their circumstances, rather than feeling unimportant to them and feeling hurt and angry.  When you accept yourself the way you are, you lose the fear of being judged by others and the misperception that there is a lot of judgement happening.  You take your power back.  If someone judges you, it’s their business and their problem.  When we can be so easily negatively influenced by others’ judgement, perceived or real, we are giving away our power. So having a good relationship with yourself will make you much more resilient, and less easily upset.

Because your relationship with yourself is so crucially important, it’s well worth nurturing.

Thanksgiving–How Can It Change Your Life?

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Happy Thanksgiving!

We all hear so much about giving thanks, and what a great idea it is. But really, does it make a big difference?

You bet it does!

Whether things are going very well or very poorly in life, anyone can find something to be grateful for. Regardless of the circumstances, feeling grateful will help you when you’re feeling discouraged. Giving thanks will really enhance the good feelings when you’re in a positive frame of mind.

Some people experience much gratitude than others.  But wait for it – research has shown that those who experience more gratitude do way better both emotionally and physically.

So what should one do with this information? Well, look for things to be grateful for.  Even in the face of something quite difficult, one can find things to be grateful for. It’s all about that “silver lining”.  For example, someone in the hospital can be grateful for a nurse’s kindness, good medical care, or someone’s visit.  Someone stuck on a delayed airplane can feel grateful for the rich conversation he had with a fellow passenger.  Someone grieving the death of a loved one after a prolonged illness will be comforted to know that their loved one is no longer suffering. Someone experiencing interpersonal conflict can be grateful for the personal growth it is leading to: becoming more tolerant of differences, more assertive, or more forgiving.  There are so many inspiring stories of people facing huge hardships who were able to look at the positive things and feel gratitude for them.  One of these is Victor Frankl, who describes his experiences in a concentration camp in his book, “Man’s Search For Meaning”. It sold over 50 million copies. I highly recommend it!

There are many things that we tend to take for granted that we can genuinely feel grateful for.  These include health, family, friends, work, nature, art, food, comforts, challenges, personal growth, and even life itself.

Gratitude tends to go along with a belief that you are loved and deserving, and that the Universe is benevolent.  These are healthy and adaptive beliefs.

When you share with others what you are thankful for, you invite them into gratitude too. What an awesome way to get closer to those you love.

Over time, as you practice noticing things you can be grateful for, it becomes a natural habit, and an incredibly healthy one that makes you happier.  And over time, it can become an even stronger habit!

 

RELIEF VS ESCAPE

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There are many ways to escape a negative emotional experience:  alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, food, gambling, shopping, sexual experiences,sleep, and work to name some.

If you use or have used one or some of these methods to escape, you probably don’t know how else to cope.  Don’t be hard on yourself, because you were just trying to get by in the only way that you knew how.

When you deal with an upset in a constructive way so that you feel better, that is relief.  Tools on this blog that provide relief include CREATING A POWERFUL INNER RESOURCE, and EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE.  With the help of such tools, you can feel better by, for example, no longer taking something personally, feeling safe as you feel that the danger was in the past, no longer worrying but instead trusting that things will be OK and that you will be able to handle things, feeling that your best is good enough, being able to forgive yourself/another, etc.  Talking to someone trustworthy can be helpful.  You may want to see a therapist for some help.  Programs that provide support have helped many.

Think of your psyche as being an infant that sometimes has an unmet need, making it cry a shrill cry that you cannot stand.  Taking an escape route is like listening to loud music with some headphones.  You no longer have to hear the crying temporarily while the headphones are on, but the baby’s needs remain unmet.  Ignored, the crying becomes more intense and frantic.  Relief is like picking up the baby, determining what it needs, such as milk, a burp, a diaper change, some rocking, etc., soothing it by giving it what it needs, and enjoying the peace of a quiet content baby.  Not only are you not hurting your ears with the loud music, but you haven taken good care of your precious baby.  The baby is your emotional self, which is indeed precious.  It deserves to be well cared for, and if it’s ignored, the built-up unmet emotional needs add up and cause more distress and trouble.

Also, when there is addiction, there is often another mental health issue that a person is trying to cope with.  Examples of this include ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (excess worry), depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, panic disorder, and social anxiety.  These are all treatable with medication as well as therapy.  So seeing your doctor is a good idea.